First Merlin HC.3A Helicopters Unveiled at RAF Benson
Prior to delivery the Merlins have been undergoing modifications by AgustaWestland in Yeovil to upgrade the aircraft to RAF standards, with operational enhancements and the latest BERP IV advanced rotor-blades which offer improvements to speed, range and lift capacity of the platform, and will give the hot-high performance needed to deploy to Afghanistan. The new standard is designated HC.3A.
The Danish EH101 Mk 512 Merlins were equipped with Directional Infra-Red Countermeasures, chin-mounted Forward Looking Infra-Red turret, Electronic Support Measures, Electronic Warfare Suite, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, secure digital intercommunications system and the RDR-1600 SAR Weather Aviodance Radar. Although so far only the RDR-1600 radar has been confirmed to be retained, this equipment would be well suited to the Special Ops role.
The six EH101 Merlins were originally bought by the Danish Government from AgustaWestland, four of which were configured for the SAR role. Before entering service in Denmark, it was agreed to transfer them to the UK in order to deliver a rapid increase in helicopters for the UK's operations. The UK MOD has entered into a contract with AgustaWestland to produce six new Merlin helicopters for Denmark as replacements for the six transferred.
The agreement with Denmark and AgustaWestland has a cost to the UK of £174.7m, including the airframes, some RAF specific modifications (including defensive aids), spares and new rotor-blades.
The existing RAF Merlin HC.3 fleet of 22 is currently operated by 28 (AC) Squadron from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. A second Merlin Squadron, 78 Squadron, will be formed in December 2007 to operate the eight new HC.3A examples. At present crews are being trained for the new Squadron. The Merlin fleet will be split between the two Squadrons.
- <a href="http://www.milavia.net/news/2007/first-ex-rdaf-merlin-for-raf-arrived-at-raf-benson.html" class="news">First ex-RDAF Merlin for RAF Arrived at RAF Benson (01 Aug) </a>
- <a href="http://www.milavia.net/news/2007/first-danish-merlin-helicopters-for-raf-arrive-in-uk.html" class="news">Danish Merlin Helicopters for RAF Arrive in UK (29 June 2007)</a>.